FM: The EU could lose the Western Balkans

The foreign minister said enlargement of the EU is “one of the most important policies” of the community.

The foreign minister has said that unless the European Union makes timely steps in terms of its enlargement, it could lose the Western Balkans, similarly to the United Kingdom.

Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said on the sidelines of a meeting of EU affairs ministers in Luxembourg that enlargement of the EU is “one of the most important policies” of the community. The bloc will pursue “policies running contrary to its own interests” if it fails to accelerate accession talks with Serbia and Montenegro, and delays the start of talks with North Macedonia and Albania, he said.

Minister Szijjártó added that there was “competition” under way to integrate the Balkans and exert influence on the region. He said that though the EU stands the highest chances to win, as countries in the region have “all chosen the European path”, the region’s “transatlantic direction must not be taken for granted”. The EU needs the Western Balkans more than the Western Balkans countries need the EU, Minister Szijjártó warned, adding that “losing that region could be a realistic scenario for the EU in case of a long impasse”.

“The EU must be enlarged with new members and with economic and trade cooperation with those states coupled with market opportunities,” the minister said. He added that in the light of three countries in the region recently meeting NATO’s entry criteria “there’s no reason for the EU’s delays”. The minister urged that Serbia and Montenegro should be “quickly integrated”, and that talks with Albania and North Macedonia are started. “Failing to do so, the EU will not only give up a realistic success but may risk stability and security in its neighbourhood instead of peace, calm, and economic opportunities,” he said.